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Measuring the “Faisal Gill Effect”

By Greg L | 9 November 2007 | 39th VA Senate | 15 Comments

There’s been a lot of discussion around what happened in the 39th Senate District and what the real cause of Jay O’Brien’s defeat was.  One popular theory is that having Jay O”Brien forced to campaign alongside the relatively unpopular Faisal Gill was the proximate cause of his defeat, but there’s little evidence in the election results that this might be the case.  Although it may be a popular theory, unless future campaign strategies in this District are based on reality, rather than on what might be a convenient or more palatable excuse, the chances of retaking this seat at the next opportunity are slim.

The 39th Senate District has nine precincts in Prince William County, and all but one overlap with the 51st District with the exception of Buckhall precinct, which is in the 13th House District represented by Bob Marshall.  In those eight precincts, Corey Stewart came out with 4,241 (57.33%) votes, Faisal Gill got 3,691 (50.08%) votes, and Jay O’Brien got 4,034 (54.29%).  In three of these precincts, O’Brien got more votes than Corey Stewart, and in the Buckhall precinct outside of the 51st, O’Brien got 12 votes more than Stewart.  In none of these precincts did Faisal Gill out-poll Corey Stewart.

If this one precinct demonstrates what results should have been absent the “Faisal Gill Effect”, which is an awfully thin basis to make a case, Faisal Gill may have cost Jay O’Brien 1,356 votes, had he tracked above Corey Stewart in the eight precincts he shares with the 51st District as he did in the one precinct he has in the 13th District.  Instead of contributing 637 net votes to offset what happens in Fairfax County, Jay would have netted 1,993 votes, assuming a worst-case of all additional votes for Jay O’Brien would have been additional votes at the polls rather than votes for Barker that switched to O’Brien.  Barker won the 39th District by only 751 votes, so these votes would have changed the outcome of the election.

So far, if you assume that the differential at Buckhall between Corey Stewart votes and Jay O’Brien votes would have been the differential in the other eight precincts, the case for the “Faisal Gill Effect” torpedoing Jay O’Brien’s race looks somewhat convincing.  So let’s take a look at what happened in the last comparable race, when Jay O’Brien faced off against Greg Galligan in 2003.

In that election, Jay O’Brien netted 2,169 votes from Prince William County while crushing Galligan 58%-42%.  In that election, O’Brien won not only in Prince William, but in Fairfax County as well.  Two precincts gave better margins for O’Brien than Buckhall, and only two tracked significantly lower.  Buckhall doesn’t seem to be an anomaly in the 51st District, but somewhere in the top third for Republican candidates, so that net margin probably should be discounted by about a third.  That nets out to 1,315 votes, with 1,388 needed from Prince William in order to have changed the outcome.

Where this direct comparison with the 2003 elections starts to break down, as they usually do, is in the turnout numbers.  The turnout in the 39th District in Prince William County in 2003 was 25.83%, and jumped to a fairly respectable 35.09% in 2007.  Corey Stewart’s performance at 57.33% in these eight precincts is a couple of percentage points higher than his county-wide average, but lower than the somewhat comparable Hill-Stoffregen race if you adjust the results for each precinct down by the same percentage as Hill’s margin in 2003 compared to Stewart’s margin in 2007.  Turnout in 2007 would seem to have been marginally less favorable to Republicans than the turnout in 2003.  Some of what we’re seeing here is a slightly unfavorable effect due to turnout, which cuts this “Faisal Gill Effect” down again.
In the end, a “Faisal Gill Effect” may have been present, but it probably was too small to make difference in the 39th District.  What is pretty easy to determine is that in 2003 Jay O’Brien got much better results out of Fairfax County in 2003 than he did in 2007.  A significant decrease in the effectiveness of the FCRC, improved organization by Fairfax Democrats, and a stronger opponent in 2007 made it a much tougher race for Jay O’Brien this year than in his last election.  It’s a lot more defensible to point to the much more significant factors that played in this race than to try to dig into election result statistics to divine whether within that statistical noise a “Faisal Gill Effect” can be identified and accurately measured.  In a close race such as this one, every minor issue could have made the difference, but it’s still the major issues that really needed to be overcome in order to have had a different outcome.

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  1. charm said on 9 Nov 2007 at 3:26 pm:
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    Jay O’Brien lost two precincts in PWC because he had a stronger opponent. George Barker spent weeks canvassing in those 9 PWC precincts. He lost one precinct by less than 50 votes, others by less than 100. He also had strong support by the Democratic Party in the Woodbridge area.

    That said, O’Brien won three precincts that Nichols won — McCoart, Westridge, and Rockledge.

  2. Advocator said on 9 Nov 2007 at 3:40 pm:
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    Greg: It appears that somewhere around 59k people voted in PWC. Any idea what the total campaign expeditures were for all candidates combined in the County? I’d like to see a $/voter figure.

  3. James Young said on 9 Nov 2007 at 4:41 pm:
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    A refreshingly honest analysis. I agree. if one wants to point fingers, they should be at the abysmal performance of the Fairfax County GOP. Jay deserved better from that organization, and didn’t get it.

    Barker should also get credit for an effective — albeit dishonest and one-note — advertising campaign. The GOP never effectively answered the Democrat’s campaign against abusive driver fees, even though the fact that they were directed solely at Virginians — the most blatantly offensive and unconstitutional element of the law — was a little amendment that was Governor Timmy’s!.

    Once again, had Republicans stood on principle, i.e., attacking the blatant equal protection deficiencies in the amended “compromise,” Barker wouldn’t have had an issue.

    Of course, the nice thing about being a nihilistic Democrat is that they then would have attacked the GOP for refusing to “compromise” in imposing an unconstitutional law.

  4. Brighter Future said on 9 Nov 2007 at 9:15 pm:
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    Fairfax let OBrien down. Could be his stance on illegals. Fairfax seems to like

    Wonder how much effort was given to him by Corey? Did he pass out his literature in the neighborhoods?

    If Fairfax GOP is anything like PW. then the candidates are in trouble. They are on their own and the sooner they understand this the better off they will be.

    Some of us do not feel Royse was given assistance from those who have run before and vert little from the GOP.

  5. Loudoun Insider said on 10 Nov 2007 at 11:29 am:
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    If only Royse had hired Kopko as a consultant, maybe he would have received more party help!

  6. Scott A. Surovell said on 10 Nov 2007 at 3:12 pm:
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    I think there were also about 3,000 more RV in O’Brien’s Prince William precincts than there were in 2003. I suspect that they are probably more likely D than R which would reduce O’Brien’s margins farther.

  7. freedom said on 11 Nov 2007 at 6:34 am:
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    Excellent analysis, Greg. However, there were many Republicans who simply could not vote Gill; could not vote for those who supported Gill, e.g., Corey Stewart; and at the same time, could not bring themselves to vote for a Democrat. Thus, those people simply “sat this one out” and didn’t vote at all.

    How many of those there were, I have no idea. However, they were there and their voting abstinence hurt all Republican candidates, including Jay O’brien’s majority in PWC.

  8. Anonymous said on 11 Nov 2007 at 1:03 pm:
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    Sometimes the political consultants play a major role in who wins the elections. They decide who to target and when. They choose the issues which to persuade the voters to either continue voting for the incumbent or the issues to persuade the independent and democrat voters.

  9. Not JY said on 11 Nov 2007 at 5:28 pm:
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    Jim Young wrote, “Barker should also get credit for an effective — albeit dishonest and one-note — advertising campaign.”

    And I bet you typed that with a straight face, too! Would that be anything like running a dishonest convention and one-note (a vote against Faisal PROVES you are a racist) campaign?

  10. CONVA said on 11 Nov 2007 at 6:14 pm:
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    Hopefully we won’t hear anything more from FAISAL and his follower/apologists.

  11. James Young said on 11 Nov 2007 at 11:29 pm:
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    Well, “Not JY,” since I’ve never said any such thing, you once again demonstrate that you don’t know what you’re talking about. And, of course, the only thing “dishonest” about the Convention are the largely anonymous aspersions cast here and elsewhere about its conduct.

    And “CONVA,” Faisal doesn’t have “followers.” He has “supporters.” It is a measure of the merits of your comment that you have to belittle them by dismissing them as “followers.”

  12. James Young said on 11 Nov 2007 at 11:35 pm:
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    Clearly, “Not JY,” you’re confusing me with the Potomac News, which is, as usual, utterly oblivious to the machinations of the type of Republicans that are frequently to their liking.


  13. Jonathan Mark said on 12 Nov 2007 at 8:03 am:
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    Jim Young is definitely a “follower” of Faisal. Jim even posted this weekend the bizarre claim that the terrorist Abdurahman had “infiltrated” the American Muslim Council, where Faisal worked as chief lobbyist.

    No, Abdurahman Alamoudi FOUNDED the American Muslim Council. He cannot infiltrate an organization which he founded.

    Jim Young is presumably a functioning adult. The type of false statements that Young makes are not due to stupidity. They are due to being a “follower,” a blind adherent.

  14. freedom said on 12 Nov 2007 at 9:08 am:
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    …only problem is, jimmy, no one really KNOWS what Faisal Gill’s beliefs are, only what he SAYS his beliefs are….although I certainly don’t know the AMC’s founder, Alamoudi, I can only imagine that HE kept a fairly “vanilla” outer shell for a good while too, huh?? Not only him, kinda makes ya think of the Governor’s appointee, — a loyal American citizen, except for those times when he’s a Jihadist. Oh, but after he was revealed, he even had a different definition of “Jihad,” remember? Wonder how many people bought THAT one…sigh!!

    Won’t you EVER get it, jimmy?? Because of his past and continuing associations, we clearly have “doubt” about Faisal Gill, doubt about him that is well beyond “reasonable.” Thus, we’re just not willing to take a chance on this guy in our government!!! You shouldn’t either.

  15. Anonymous said on 14 Nov 2007 at 2:27 am:
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    An incumbent state senator should never lose reelection.

    He has all the powers of incumbency. You really have to blame the candidate and his political consultants for the defeat.

    They knew Faisal was on the ballot and they didn’t really shore up their base in Prince William.

    Who knows what they were thinking.

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